Producing documents

Power generally

In a complaint that has been referred to QCAT, the complainant applied for orders requiring the respondents to produce a range of documents. Under the QCAT Act, the tribunal has power to give a direction requiring a party to produce a document or another thing, or provide information, to the tribunal or to another party.

The complainant alleges that he was discriminated against because of his political belief or activity when he applied for a medical officer position at a hospital. The respondents claim the position was withdrawn because clinical streaming had not been applied to the position.

The complainant wanted the respondents to produce documents relating to compliance with the clinical streaming over a set period of time, and to the recruitment files for permanent medical officer positions over a set period of time. During the process of making submissions to the application, the complainant limited the scope of the documents he wanted produced.

The tribunal made it clear that an order for the production of documents will only be made in respect of identified documents that are reasonably believed to exist and that are relevant to the proceeding. The power to order the production of documents or information will not be used for a fishing expedition.

The respondents argued that the documents sought were not relevant, and that the request was oppressive. There was however no indication as to what difficulty the respondents would experience in producing the documents, and the tribunal was not satisfied that compliance would be oppressive.

The tribunal decided the documents sought were relevant to consideration of the appointment process, and that at this stage of the complaint there was at least an arguable case that applicants for permanent positions without the attribute of political belief or activity would be considered as comparators.

Davis v Metro North Hospital and Health Service [2018] QCAT 8

Back to top


Before contentions had been filed, a complainant applied for an order requiring the respondents to produce documents. The tribunal said the application was premature and inconsistent with the statutory objects of the tribunal to deal with matters in a way that is economical, informal and quick.

The Senior Member gave some guidance of what is expected in relation to documentary evidence:

[8] … At QCAT , it is not common for directions to be given to parties in anti-discrimination complaints to produce documents to each other unless some prior efforts have been made to obtain the documents by an informal request made between the parties and that request has been refused. …
[9] Parties are expected to provide copies to the tribunal and to each other of documents that are directly relevant to the issues in dispute, that constitute evidence of relevant facts needed to determine the issues and that are documents in the sole possession of one party. Such documents are most commonly provided on request or via the filed statements of evidence of the parties.

Lemeki v State of Queensland [2013] QCAT 262

Back to top

The best time to determine whether documents are relevant to the complaint is after the evidence of the parties is filed.

It was premature to apply for an order to produce documents before the respondent had filed its contentions.

Turner v Racing Queensland [2013] QCAT 707

Back to top


The documents sought to be produced must be relevant to the complaint.

The tribunal refused to order a respondent to produce documents about things that occurred 5 years before the subject matter of the complaint.

James v State of Queensland [2014] QCAT 375

Back to top


The prime purpose of producing documents to the tribunal is to disclose to the tribunal relevant information to enable it to decide the complaint.

A notice to produce documents should not be used as a substitute for discovery. (Discovery is the process of each party disclosing to the others the documents they have that are relevant to the issues in the proceeding.)

In refusing an application for an order requiring the production of non-specified documents the Senior Member provided the following helpful information about discovery and production of documents:

[10] The tribunal expects parties in anti-discrimination matters to respond voluntarily to requests for copies of relevant documents.  The tribunal does not generally make orders for disclosure of documents as such a course rarely achieves the tribunal's statutory objects of dealing with matters in a way that is economical, informal and quick.Documents that are to be relied on as evidence should in most cases be produced into evidence attached to statements of a party or witness and in this way be available to the tribunal for its deliberations. Filing and exchanging copies of documents as a matter of course in a disclosure process incurs unnecessary costs for parties and diverts attention from the essential task of parties endeavouring to resolve their dispute as economically and fairly as possible.

Lyons v State of Queensland [2012] QCAT 569

Back to top

Availability of decisions

QCAT decisions are available from:

Back to top